The 25,918-square kilometer diocese covers the civil districts of Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar in eastern Orissa state. The territory of Balasore diocese was under the archdiocese of Calcutta until 1968.
As of 2015, the total population is 9,145,650.
Oriya, Hindi, Santhali, Ho, Bhumijo, Oraon, and Bengali are the main languages spoken in the diocesan territory.
The origin of Christianity in this part of northeastern Orissa can be traced to a 1514 Portuguese settlement in Pippilli. However, Balasore got a resident priest, Jesuit Father Sapport, only in 1865. He built a church (Lal Girja) in Balasore and started a foundling home, which the Daughters of the Cross later looked after. Father Sapport is considered the pioneer missionary in the area. In 1915, the Daughters of St Joseph of Chembery arrived and opened a convent and a school, which was functioning until 1938, in Balasore. Records show that many priests, including Jesuit Fathers Schaff, Gengler, A. Ville and Vritoff, were working in Balasore during the period 1880-1937.
The Maltese Dominicans took charge on Nov. 1, 1938, under the leadership of Father Gavriel. However, the Dominicans stayed only a short time and left on Jan. 1, 1941. During this time, however, an earthquake severely damaged the Lal Girja of Balasore, and the church was dismantled in 1940 on the written order of Jesuit Archbishop Ferdinand Perrier of Calcutta.
From 1941 until 1948, Balasore had to be content with visiting priests from Kharagpur. In 1948, Jesuit Father Joseph Visiak was appointed resident priest of Balasore, but he resided and established a church at Krishnachandrapur, because of the larger Christian community there. Diocesan priests from Cuttack rendered services in Balasore, Krishnachandrapur and Barbil from 1965-1968.
On June 8, 1968, the three Orissa districts of Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar were separated from Calcutta archdiocese and formed into the apostolic prefecture of Balasore, in the ecclesiastical province of Ranchi. It was entrusted to the Congregation of the Mission. In 1974, the prefecture was placed under the ecclesiastical province of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.
On June 14, 1968, Father Jacob Vadakeveetil, C.M. was appointed first apostolic administrator of Balasore and he took charge on Nov. 18 the same year. Msgr. Vadakeveetil guided the prefecture's destiny until Jan. 13, 1990, when he retired due to ill-health. On the same day Balasore was raised to the status of a diocese and Bishop Thiruthalil, who headed Berhampur diocese (Ganjam district) at the time, was transferred and appointed first bishop of Balasore.
Cities are managed by corporations. Villages and small towns are administered by panchayats and municipalities, respectively. These local bodies are elected.
The diocesan area is well connected in terms of transport infrastructure by roads and railways. The nearest airports are in Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar.
Per capita income is Rs 8,547 ($190) as of March 2011. Farming, especially rice, is the primary occupation. The two districts of Bhadrak and Keonjhar are rich in minerals, and several mines are situated in these areas.
Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area. The diocese is well served by local cable TV networks.
Balasore has an average literacy rate of 88 percent, higher than the national average of 59.5 percent. It is also the most literate town of Orissa.
Gonsalo's martyrdom at Nagasaki with the other Christian missionaries is regarded as the most tragic and historic event for Catholicism in Japan
Calungsod and his companion Father Vitores baptized infants, children and adults, defying the risk of persecution and murder
Despite being an ordinary layman, Ruiz remained defiant while facing torture by the Japanese and died a brave martyr
He was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea
This fabled church is also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross) Church
Asian Catholics who cannot visit famous Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in France can revere miraculous Mother Mary at Velankanni shrine in India. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as “the Lourdes of the East” and holds the largest Catholic Church in Asia.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India. Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.
Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.
The shrine holds a three-meter-tall, white-stone carved statue Virgin Mary on the Tao Pao Mountain in the Diocese of Phan Thiet in southern Vietnam, about 1,600 kilometers from the national capital Hanoi.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Urakami of Nagasaki is a witness of persecution of Christians from 17th to 19th centuries and deadly atomic bombing during the Second World War. This European-style, red-brick church continues to preserve some relics that survived the atomic bombing. Urakami cathedral, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was almost destroyed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945. The church stood about 500 meters from the hypocenter of atomic explosion. The devastation shattered and charred stone-made statues of saints, which were later preserved as relics along with the surviving head of Virgin Mary statue and one of the church’s original bells.
Our Lady of Akita Catholic Church is Yuzawadai is among the most famous churches in Japan. The church shot into global fame thanks to a wooden statue of Blessed Virgin Mary that wept 101 times and Marian apparitions to Japanese nun Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa that miraculously healed her hearing impairment. Japanese wooden sculptor Saburo Wakasa from Akita city carved the now-famous miraculous statue of Virgin Mary in 1963.
The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Seria is a small church on the western Belait district of Brunei, but it shot into fame thanks to the nation’s most famous Catholic – late Cardinal Cornelius Sim. It is also the second of three churches in Brunei dedicated to Virgin Mary. In fact, Mary has a prominent place not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, the dominant faith in Brunei. Holy Quran mentions Mary seventy times and reveres her as the greatest woman to have ever lived.